I am not much of a television viewer, but I do love a good reality show! Couple that with a singing competition and this girl is all in! I'll let you all in on a little secret. I can't sing to save my life, and I have always thought it would be so cool to be able to sing my heart out on stage. Shhhh! So, when I learned recently that there was a new show on Fox called The Masked Singer, I was extra intrigued. Singing + Game + Mystery….this is bound to be my new fav! Just as expected, I love it!
Let me explain this new reality show that has captured my attention and viewers from around the world. Over the course of 10 episodes, 12 celebrities anonymously compete in a singing competition by concealing themselves in a costume from head to toe. Each episode, the celebrities are paired off to compete against each other, by singing a song of his/her choice. After a panelist and live audience vote, the lowest scoring celebrity is put up for elimination. Throughout the competition, clues to each masked celebrities’ identity are given. The panelists are given time to solve the puzzle and are able to ask them a single question to try to guess their identity. At the end of the episode, the eliminated singer takes off their mask and reveals their identity to all.
Reality television shows have become a fundamental part of my gamified classrooms, so I can’t help but see them through the eyes of an educator and game designer. As I was watching an episode of The Masked Singer tonight with my husband, I began deconstructing the elements of this intriguing show and thought about how it could be brought into learning. Most reality shows have some key elements that draw us in. Challenge. Choice. Authentic Audience. Chance. When used effectively, they hook us and keep the viewer wanting to watch week after week. However, I am a distracted television watcher. It is rare that I sit through any show with my eyes glued to the screen. Often times, I’ll be on my computer or working on something else while watching. Tonight was different. I noticed I wasn’t working on my computer or anything else for that matter. I was immersed in the show. Why was this show different? One word...
From the beginning of the show to the end, I was drawn into the mystery of who was hiding behind the mask. I didn’t want to miss out on any of the celebrities mannerisms or clues that may possibly reveal their identity. I wanted to figure out the clues and solve the mystery! As I thought about this, I began thinking about the parallels between this show and a new favorite in my life...BreakoutEDU.
BreakoutEDU is like an escape room game for the classroom. Within the BreakoutEDU platform, there is an extensive collection of immersive learning games for all ages and content areas that require problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity to solve. In teams, students are working together to solve a series of clues that will reveal the code to break into a small and large box that is closed shut with various locks.
I have loved this immersive game ever since I entered the BreakoutEDU bus a few years back at the ISTE conference in Denver, Colorado. However, there was something about it that I had always found a little intimidating to facilitate on my own. That all changed when my friend Ann Brucker, a game designer and community manager from BreakoutEDU, designed a game for my book, Make Learning Magical, that she facilitated at the SOPTV Teacher Summit this past Fall. (It's incredibly magical, check it out HERE!) Assisting her in setting the locks and facilitating this game, took the fear away and I knew it was time to take a leap. I needed more BreakoutEDU in my life. In my new role as Tech Integration Specialist, I had the opportunity to purchase a set of 6 BreakoutEDU boxes for our district. They came in just in time to reveal them to our innovation team before our holiday break, and they were a hit! When everyone returned in the new year, they were all fired up and ready to bring these immersive games into their classroom. There was no turning back. Any trepidation I had about getting started was short lived, because before long I was feeling like a BreakoutEDU rockstar and was setting locks and facilitating games like I’d been doing it for years. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration… But seriously, why I had I waited so long to take this leap?! Each time I facilitated a game, I became more confident and the immersive and rich learning experience that I was witnessing blew my mind! Talk about the 4 C’s amplified….WOW! These kids were collaborating, communicating, critically, and creatively thinking at a high octane level! In an intense moment in one of the games I facilitated in a 5th grade classroom, a student exclaimed, “You guys! We have to be smarter than we normally are if we are going to figure this out.” It cracked me up! They were thinking really hard and they wanted to! That’s pretty flippin’ amazing! During reflection time after the game was over a struggling learner said, “Today was the first time in this class that I didn’t give up.” When the teacher asked what was different about this experience he said, “Because, I saw how hard the other students in class were working and it made me want to work hard too.” Wow! A true testament to something I believe strongly….learning can and should be fun and play is powerful!
What is the common denominator between what hooks kids into a game like BreakoutEDU and what hooks me into a show like The Masked Singer? CURIOSITY!!!! Whether it’s behind a mask or hidden in a box, we want to solve the mystery! As I thought about this connection, my mind began swirling with ideas. How could I weave curiosity into the gamified classroom with these new BreakoutEDU boxes in a similar way that The Masked Singer weaves it into a season of episodes? Then it hit me! Each unit could kick off with a new mystery and throughout the unit students would search for clues that would unlock the BreakoutEDU box that held the mystery inside! Clues would be hidden in the classroom or around campus, in invisible ink or digital text on their assignments, or randomly throughout the unit in daily activities. The clues would connect to the content being learned and would require students to dive deeper to discover the mystery within! In the gamified classroom, the opportunities are endless. You could give special badges or incentives to students or teams that opened the box first. You could even have a different badge for each lock figured out and a badge for the entire class if collectively they could open the box before the test at the end of the unit. In social studies, a historical figure, event, or secret location could be hidden in the box. In science, it may be a famous scientist, rare gem or invention. In math, it could be a famous engineer or mathematician. In culinary, it may be a rare ingredient, recipe, or chef that connects to the content being taught. The point is, it could work in any grade level or subject area.
When we bring mystery, wonder, and curiosity into learning, magical things happen. Our students want to be challenged. They want to explore. They are starving for a little mystery and excitement in learning. They are craving curiosity. As educators, we have an amazing mission to bring that magic to our classrooms. Whether it’s behind a mask or locked in a box, curiosity is magical! Let’s find a way to bring it into learning!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.